I swear the following incident is true: I am not making any of this up.
A few months ago I joined Match.com. From time to time I have tweaked the little introductory text that they let you post, where you’re supposed to describe yourself and what you’re looking for. Whenever you submit a new draft, they save it separate and apart from your existing, live copy, and they review it “manually” for approval. In a day or two they send you an email saying your “portrait” has been deemed acceptable, in accordance with their policies; it is said to be “approved” and goes live, and the earlier version apparently gets overwritten.
Wiseass that I am, I have a satirical opening: “Fun-despising yet unstable, stupid, fat, ugly, lazy, inarticulate […] unsuccessful nonprofessional seeks diametric opposite for a lifetime of mutual torture.” Then I say sorry, I couldn’t resist mocking the generic match.com profile, let me try to get serious, and I proceed to enumerate my many virtues. Elsewhere in my “portrait” under “education,” I say that I got some, and admit to occasionally enjoying using words like “perspicacious.” Elsewhere I mention that I have a 3.5-year-old daughter who means more to me than words can say.
Last time I submitted a new draft for approval, I edited a couple things, but I did not touch any of the above parts of the text. Instead of the customary approval message, I got a boilerplate email that said there was an “issue” and reminded me of their guidelines: no offensive vile nasty racist et cetera stuff allowed. So I wrote back to them: what is it in my draft that you have a problem with? Answer: they sent back the same boilerplate. So I wrote back again: yes, but in order to answer my question, you’re going to have to read it.
Meanwhile, I discovered that instead of leaving the previously accepted version of my “portrait” published, they had censored it outright. When you tried to access it, you got “We’re sorry, the Portrait you’re looking for could not be found. Please try another Portrait.” My, that will certainly give me a competitive edge over the rest of the Match dudes, don’t you think? But I was not amused, so I sent a nastygram through their web interface saying, inter alia, “if this is payback for questioning your unthinking overzealous misguided prudishness and political correctness, it seems a bit heavy-handed. Please make this right immediately, or refund my money pro rata as of the day you suppressed my profile. Your choice. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.”
Answer: call customer service during their business hours to address my “issue.” This was on a holiday weekend, so I had to wait a couple days to call them.
When the next business day came around, I called them and spoke to someone who identified herself as Teowon. She said that the self-deprecatory humor in the beginning had to go because someone might find it offensive. Really, said I? Do you know of any actual complaints that you’ve received about it? No, but that’s our policy. I said, well, I have gotten several positive comments about it and zero negative ones; it’s been complimented as “funny” and “refreshingly hilarious.” She said, that’s our policy. I said, you are gutting my “portrait,” this is the essence of who I am: funny. A funny guy. Get it? No one has complained, indeed people have said they like it. What’s the problem?
She put me on hold.
A few minutes later she comes back and says the line “I couldn’t resist mocking the generic match.com profile” has to go. No mocking match.com. Against policy. I protest again.
She put me on hold.
Next she comes back and says what does perspicacious mean? I explained it to her, then said, do you have a dictionary there by any chance? Why take my word for it? She said that was what they were investigating while I was on hold. I suggested she try using the Google
define keyword and look it up.
She put me on hold.
Then Teowon came back and said, you can’t publish your daughter’s age. That’s against policy.
By now I knew for sure I was dealing with a semi-moron, so I said, OK, I will do your bidding, and you will provide me with the full name, title and mailing address of the highest-ranking executive in charge of customer relations at this company so I can address a letter to her or him and appeal my case.
She put me on hold.
A few minutes later she came back and declared that the entire text was now deemed acceptable and would be approved. This came as a surprise. I was pleased to have wasted only about half an hour, much of it wildly amusing. So I thanked her for seeing things my way and said goodbye.
The very next thing that happened was another email from someone named Ivan S., saying please call Customer Service. Savvy consumer that I am, I hypothesized that Ivan was responding to the complaint that I posted through the website, and of course the left hand has no clue what the right is doing, so just wait and see. Sure enough, soon thereafter I got the customary Your Profile Has Been Approved message, and all is well.
In the course of this conversation Teowon told me that she herself had been the one who evaluated my text and found it unacceptable. I suspect she had simply flagged it as no good, without specifying why, and could not remember why, so she had to search. Hence the long hold periods. Something had to be amiss, because she was objecting to parts that had been published for months and said nothing about the changes that had most recently been introduced. It would seem they aren’t — or at least Teowon wasn’t — running anything analogous to the Unix utility
diff to examine only what what has changed since the last revision; every review is a de novo review.
Or maybe poor Teowon is just undertrained, or overworked, or just plain dumb, or some combination of the above.
Update: Fast forward to almost two years later. I don’t want or need Match any longer, being completely satisfied with my girlfriend — let’s call her Amy, to protect the innocent — whom I met on… match dot com, of all places! So I contact them and say I want my profile deleted. You can’t do that. You have to log in and turn off a boolean signifying “display” or “do not display” your profile. I refuse. My position is no, I want to withdraw totally and completely, I want to leave, walk, depart, exit, disappear. Get it? No, you can’t do that. It’s like a street gang. Once you wear the tatto motherfucker you are one of us for life.